As a dog groomer, one of the most frustrating parts of my job is communicating with the client what kind of haircut they want. Too often, the client cannot verbalize what they want or have unrealistic expectations of me, and end up being upset when they don’t get what they envisioned. Below are some tips to help you get the haircut you want when you take your pet to the groomer.
Do your research and be able to communicate your expectations.
“Short” is not a length. My idea of short and your idea of short may be a couple of inches apart. Telling your groomer to take your dog short without using actual numbers is like going into the paint store and telling them you want to paint your house pink. Baby pink? Fushia pink? Petal pink? Carnation pink? How about Rose pink, or Blush pink? Perhaps a lovely Neon Pink?
1/2” is a length. Short is an adjective that leaves much to the imagination. If you are unsure of what length you want, ask your groomer to do a couple of test strips on your dog starting with the blade closest to your dogs' current coat length until you are satisfied with the length. I often have people come in, spread their fingers 2 inches apart, and ask me to leave their dog, who has no more than ¾” of hair on its body, that long. Consider if what you are asking for is even possible or logical for your dog.
If you are unable to communicate what you want, the result of the groom is not going to make you happy. Be prepared to describe how you want the ears, tail, face, feet and body to look. There are literally hundreds of ways we can groom a Shih Tzu, so don’t ask the groomer to “make her look like a Shih Tzu”. With so many options, it is up to you to tell us what you want. We are here to show you examples and give you some different options, but in the end, it’s the words you choose that will determine how your dog looks. Take the time to research, ask questions, and take notes to give your groomer for next time on what you did and didn’t like. It can take a few grooms before you get exactly what you are looking for!
People often bring in photos to show what they want, which is great…within reason. Every dog, even those of the same breed, has different hair types. What looks good on one yorkie may not look good on your yorkie because of difference in the texture of the hair, the shape of your dogs body, the condition the coat is in when you bring the dog in and even genetics. Bringing in a photo of a random dog from a calendar and expecting your own dog to look like that is not reasonable unless you take exceptional at home care of your dogs’ coat, which is not logical for most pet owners. Show grooming and pet grooming are very different things, and the care and time that goes into keeping show dog coats looking like that amounts to hours every DAY and professional expertise of the owner.
If you have gotten a haircut you really liked for your dog, make a point of taking clear, full body photos of him or her sitting still to show any future groomers exactly what you do like. Ask the groomer to write down what blades and styles they used, so you can ask for that same thing next time. Don’t expect your groomer to remember what was done to your dog 6 months ago…we see a LOT of dogs of the same breed every week. It is your responsibility as an owner to know what you want and be able to articulate it to your groomer. If your spouse or child drops your dog off, be sure they have clear, written instructions to give the groomer.
Take care of your dog’s coat, or be prepared to get a haircut you are not thrilled with.
Groomers are unfortunately, not miracle workers. You can’t not brush your own hair for 6 months and expect your hairdresser to make you look like a celebrity. Don’t expect anything less from your dog groomer. Most hair breeds need to be groomed professionally every 6-8 weeks, PLUS be kept brushed out completely in between grooms by their owners. If you want a longer clip on your dog, you need to keep a strict grooming schedule, or be prepared to have your dog clipped shorter than you would like. Combing out matts on a dog is painful for them and time consuming for the groomer. Some groomers refuse to cause pain to the dogs for the sake of “cute”. If dematting does happen, it WILL cost you more money. Be prepared.
If you are unsure what methods and tools to use to keep your pet’s coat in good condition, just ask! Your groomer will be more than happy to show you how and advise you on what tools to purchase for your dogs coat type. Schedule your next appointment when you leave the previous one…that way you have a schedule that will keep your dog comfortable and looking nice, and you won’t be caught off guard by busy seasons or holidays and end up having to wait months to get another appointment once your dog is already overdue.
Be respectful of your groomer’s time and effort.
It can take anywhere from 3-4 hours to groom a dog…more if they are ill behaved, in really bad shape, or decide to mess in the kennel and need to be rebathed. Grooming takes time, and is not something that can or should be rushed. Every groomer is a bit different in how they groom and manage their days. Some only work on one dog at a time and may get your dog done in less time. Some have multiple dogs in at the same time and rotate them, (start another while yours is drying, etc) which means your dog will be at the groomer for a longer period of time.
Understand that this is not a predictable career. One dog making a mess, one customer having an issue or arriving for their appointment late, or one ill behaved dog can set us back on the rest of our day. Be patient. If you are anxious to pick up your dog and don’t give us the time we ask for, the haircut and the safety of your dog will suffer for it. Don’t stop in early just to “check and see if he is done”…your dog will be excited to see you and will not sit still for the rest of the groom, making it impossible to finish safely. Do not call to ask if the dog is done when you are given a specific time to pick up or told we will call you when the dog is done…we are busy grooming your dog, we don’t have time to answer the phone. Your patience and understanding will make the whole process go much smoother. If you have a certain time you need to pick up at, clear that when you make the appointment and be sure it will work, not after you have dropped off.
Do's and Don'ts of a Responsible Dog Owner.
DO bring your dog into a grooming shop (or any other public place!) on a properly fitted flat leash and collar. Flexi-leashes are for dog parks and potty times, not public places, as they offer no control.
DO research your grooming shop before your appointment. Do they have a facebook page or website with information that could relate to you? Do they have signs posted about additional fees, hours, rules or payment methods? Check these things out ahead of time to avoid unexpected surprises.
DON’T feed your dog the morning of its appointment unless there is a health reason to do so. This will only cause your dog to have to potty and it may mess in the cage at the groomer. Many groomer charge clean up fees due to having to rebath your dog and having to take time out to clean up a messy kennel or dryer.
DO potty your dog before dropping them off.
DON’T bring your dog into a groomer in a carrier – dogs do not take well to people they do not know well reaching into a confined space to pull them out.
DO leave a number for you to be reached at in case of questions or problems. Be sure to inform your groomer if your contact information has changed.
DON’T pass your anxiety on to your dog. Bring your dog in, hand it over to the groomer, and leave with a smile. Lingering, talking to your dog in high pitched tones, and forcing your groomer to pry your dog out of your arms is only going to make the rest of the appointment stressful and upsetting for your dog. YOU set the tone. If you are nervous, unsure or unhappy to leave your dog, your body language will show this and they will pick up on it. If your dog is nervous about being groomed or left, reassure it by acting completely normal and confident, and everything will be ok.
DO inform your groomer of any injuries, illnesses or behavior issues. We are trained to work with these issues, and it is safer for us and your dog to know about them ahead of time.
DO have realistic expectations. It is up to you as a pet owner to take care of your dogs coat, know how you want them groomed, train them to behave, and address any health issues with a vet.
DO start your pet off young with haircuts, coat care and socialization. An unsocialized dog is a grooming nightmare, and puppies should have their first grooms as soon as their series of shots are complete, even if it is just a bath and nails to get them used to the process.
DO talk to your groomer if you are not happy with something! Getting angry or upset without bothering to understand why something was done the way it was done only creates a bad relationship between you and your groomer. We do want to make our clients happy, but sometimes we just can’t give you what you want. Find out why before you get upset. Develop a good, honest working relationship with your groomer through communication so your dog is able to develop a trusting, comfortable bond with the same groomer rather than going to a strange person every time they need a haircut.
by Seri Dukart - Groomer